Praha (Prague): Zádruha, 1946. First edition. Softcover. Quarto. Unpaginated.  leaves. Original photo-illustrated dust-jacket over stiff wrappers. Title page signed by Zdenek Tmej and dated 1948. "Abeceda Dusevniho Prázdna" (The Alphabet of Spiritual Emptiness) offers an extraordinary look inside a German forced labor camp in Breslau, Germany, where Zdenek Tmej was forced to work for the Nazi war effort from 1942 to 1944. It is remarkable that Zdenek Tmej, a Czech citizen was able to photograph at all, let alone produce such a poetic response to the horrors of the war.
Armed with a concealed camera, Tmej portrays the experience of captivity through images loaded with furtiveness and despair. The book's cover photograph establishes the claustrophobic, end-of-the-road ambience: A young man sleeps among other men, their heads resting not on pillows and beds but on cloth valises and a bare wooden table. Inside, we peer first into empty, anonymous interiors, then into institutional rooms crowded with men. "Abeceda" ends with pictures of prostitutes and several brothel scenes straight out of a George Grosz drawing. As these houses were restricted to foreigners, there is not a trace of Brassai's nightime naughtiness or underworld romance, only a messy heap of lost illusions. (Andrew Roth's The Book of 101 Books, pp.124-125.) I
llustrated with 45 striking photogravures, this work stands today as an ever-relevant symbol of survival and resistance. Moderate age wear and sunning on dust-jacket with slight rubbing along edges and 1/4" closed tear on upper edge of front cover. Light damp-staining on lower edge of dust-jacket's back cover. Professional restoration along top and bottom edge of DJ. Minor age-toning along edges of wrappers. Some foxing and minor staining on the first two leaves. Pages slightly age-toned throughout. Text in Czech. DJ, wrappers and interior in overall good to good+ condition. g. Item #34719